Opera as Poetry: Bizet's Djamileh and the Ironies of Orientalism

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The rarely-performed 'Djamileh' was Bizet's penultimate work, a one-act opera of the highest musical quality and particular sophistication. It has a slender critical heritage. This article investigates the way it transforms a complex and ironic source-poem into operatic form. Alfred de Musset's 'Namouna' is first introduced via its own critical literature, and contextualised. De Musset's ironic introduction of the Don Juan myth, via Mozart's opera, is accounted for, as are various transfigurations of poetic images by Bizet's librettist, Louis Gallet. De Musset's existential questioning finds an equivalent in 'Djamileh' through Tristanesque aspects of musical language, juxtaposed with a type of modernised mundanity suggesting the actual environment of the sybaritic male protagonist.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArt and Ideology in European Opera
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Julian Rushton
EditorsRachel Cowgill, David Cooper, Clive Brown
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherThe Boydell Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)978 1 84383 567 7
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Bizet, opera, Louis Gallet, Alfred de Musset, 'Namouna', orientalism

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